Are you facing challenges with managing remote employees? 

Whether you’ve had a remote workforce for years or you had to adjust to  COVID-19 lockdowns – managing remote employees comes with challenges.

If you were forced to switch your company structure fast and have people work from home, you are facing unforeseen challenges. But, a remote team also comes with great possibilities and potential. 

Experts argue that remote work is an inevitable future. As more and more businesses go online, remote jobs become more attainable.

From 2003 to 2018, remote work has grown by 140% – nearly 10x faster than the rest of the workforce. And this is before current trends are taken into consideration. After the lockdowns, even more people will keep working remotely.

Since the demand for remote employees is already on the rise, why not look into the possibilities right away? Boarding the trend early gives you an edge.

What’s more, a remote team is pandemic-proof. Dan Lok runs his business almost exclusively online. Because of that, his business was able to run smoothly when the states initiated lockdowns.

While other businesses were struggling, Dan Lok’s team was able to go on. Learn from his example and start managing remote employees today, to ensure safety in case something like this should ever happen again.

Find our top tips on managing remote employees below.

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Common Challenges Of Managing Remote Employees

Two most common challenges for managing remote workers are communication and false expectations.

Communication with remote workers is a balancing act. You want them to be able to communicate with you and the team, despite the absence of physical proximity.

In an office, it’s easy to bump into each other or have a watercooler chat moment. Remote workers, however, are on their own. So, feeling connected to the whole team can be a challenge.

At the same time, you also don’t want to overburden them with emails and daily huddles. Too much emphasis on communication can actually lower the productivity of your remote employees. Emails easily take precedence over tasks, and video chats break the workflow. 

That’s the difficulty of balancing communication while managing a remote team: you don’t want them to feel closed off, but you also don’t want to endanger their productivity.

Wrong Expectations Towards Remote Employees

The second challenge you might face are misplaced expectations. Expecting too much or the wrong thing can lower the productivity of your employees.

For one part, you don’t want to expect your remote team to work the same way a physical team would. Don’t expect them to strictly work from 9 to 5.

Remote work is so great because it lets your employees work at their desired time. If they know they are most productive at night, let them work at night. As long as they meet due dates and criteria you agreed on, there is no problem with that.

The second challenging expectation many remote workers face is maintaining availability.  Flexible hours are easy to mistake for constant availability.  But remote employees need rest, just like the regular staff.  

Stay away from micromanaging your remote teams.  Micromanaging makes employees feel watched, and can lower their productivity.

This is especially true for employees required to log into systems that track their work time. Time spent working is not the best indicator of productivity.

If you can, stay away from tracking time at all. Trust your team that they put in the necessary work. Instead, create KPIs which allow you to track their performance. KPIs can be independent of the time they put in.

In fact, most remote employees are trustworthy and work an average of four hours more per week when compared to the regular workforce.

Key Performance Indicators

Key performance indicators (KPIs) allow you and your employees to track success. The KPIs are either set by you or by the team together. Either way, they make sure everybody knows what they have to do.

KPIs should be measurable and enable your employees to see if they are on track with their work. It makes the work performance of your employees more trackable.

If a person repeatedly can’t fulfill their KPIs, it might be worth talking with them. If a person often succeeds in terms of KPIs, think about promoting them.

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Hiring Process And Payment Procedures

You can avoid potential challenges if you have an effective hiring process in place. When you hire employees, it’s a good idea to check if they qualify for remote work.

This aptitude depends on their natural talents and strengths. Great remote workers are usually a bit more introverted. They are also detail-oriented and able to take action independently.

Of course, extroverts can work remotely too, but you need to ensure their social wellbeing. If they need people around them to be happy, remote work might leave them unsatisfied.

So, when you are hiring, make sure to consider these factors. Sometimes, it’s a good idea to hire for a part-time position first, and put employees on a testing phase. That way you both can test if your work relationship is fruitful.

Another factor that can remove many challenges early is pay. Many business owners would think that remote employees are cheaper, and they are usually right. 

What you want to do, however, is pay them more than the industry standard. If you do that, they will be more productive because their motivation and satisfaction increase.  Happy employees work harder. 

Distractions At Home

One final obstacle when it comes to managing remote employees can be a distracting environment. This is especially important to think about if this person is working from home for the first time.

Your employees should have a designated office space. That way they keep their productivity up while working from home. This space should be free of distractions (for example no TV in the room).

If they have other people in their household, that should also be considered. Do their housemates understand that work from home is still work? Do they tend to interrupt your employee?

Ask about their environment early on and see if you avoid similar obstacles.

Some employees might enjoy working from a coffee shop or outside. That is okay, but they should have a place to work without distractions.

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Communication Tools 

Now that you are aware of some of the most common obstacles for managing remote employees, let’s consider communication tools. These include apps and management systems that allow you to manage remote teams more efficiently.

Communication tools help with streamlining communication or optimizing workflows. Here are some you should know. 

For video communication, the most popular tools are Zoom or Skype. Skype is completely free. If you have some budget to invest you might prefer Zoom, as it’s a more complete solution for businesses.

Zoom allows you to record meetings, share your screen, and much more. It’s the perfect tool to bring some face-to-face communication into your team.

For text messages, Slack is extremely popular with businesses. Slack allows you to create a channel for your company, as well as several sub-channels. 

If your team is large,  you can create these sub-channels for each subteam. Avoid the whole team getting spammed with unnecessary messages.

Text messages are usually faster than email; email communication alone might slow the whole workflow down.

Project Management Tools

While most business owners are aware of communication tools, project management software and extras often get overlooked.

Without the tools that support the workflow, the productivity decreases. People don’t know what they are supposed to do, or where the project stands.

Let’s assume, for example, you’d run a video and filmmaking business. You need people who specialize in film, graphic design, copywriting, and much more. 

If there is no workflow or process in place, the editor doesn’t know when to edit the next video; the person who films might have no idea where to upload the video and what should happen next.

Tools like Asana, Basecamp, ClickUp, or Float help you maintain a clear and streamlined process. Everything is happening in one place and your employees know where to check for their next tasks. 

One simple tool like that can have an immense impact on the productivity of your workforce.

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Tools For Collaboration

Finally, you want to make sure that the tools you use allow your employees to collaborate. Creating team collaboration can be challenging when managing remote employees. They might all end up working independently of one another. 

But, when employees cooperate, it can lead to new creative ideas. For a remote team, tools like google documents that allow several people to work on one document or sheet can be helpful.

Whatever you choose, make sure it’s a tool that allows live editing, so that actual teamwork can take place.

Best Practices

Now you’ve gained insight into common challenges and useful tools for managing remote employees. But what are some of the best practices that you and your remote team can learn from?

Follow these practices to naturally avoid challenges and setbacks, while also ensuring the productive wellbeing of your employees. 

Unhappy remote teams burn out fast, work unproductively, and cost money. That’s why it’s a good idea to have a look at systems and ideas proven to work.

Business Culture And Vision

The root of a successful remote team is your business culture. Every company or business has a certain culture. But culture doesn’t happen by accident: it is shaped by you, as the leader, and each team member. 

To manage remote employees successfully, you want a culture of ownership and accountability. If every team member is aware of their responsibility and holds themselves accountable, there is no need for you to micromanage.

This is what creates trust. When the management is too controlling, employees feel discouraged and less creative. 

Successful businesses treat their employees with trust and care, and not like a commodity. 

As we mentioned before, give your remote workers the chance to work on their terms. Don’t enforce a certain time frame when they can’t be productive during those times.

Great business culture is clear and based on integrity. The leader holds others accountable but is also accountable themselves. Click To Tweet

Creating a positive and nourishing culture with remote workers is usually easy. That’s because remote teams are often happier, more satisfied, and tend to love what they do.

What’s more, you also want to communicate your business vision clearly. Your employees should know why they are doing what they are asked to do.  Best case scenario –  their personal goals are aligned with your overall goal for the company.

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Recurring And Structured Meetings

We already touched on the challenges of remote communication. A great way to streamline communication is to have recurring video meetings.

Some businesses choose to meet weekly or bi-weekly; some even choose daily meetings. If you decide to have daily meetings, however, keep them short to protect your employees’ time.

Weekly or bi-weekly meetings usually work best. Some companies also go for monthly calls, but that period might be too extended and negatively affect productivity.

You also want your video meetings to follow a structure. Chaotic meetings lower productivity. If you can’t come up with a structure yourself, use proven formulas: Level 10 meeting, for example.

Besides team meeting, it’s a good idea to have quarterly one-on-one meetings. These meetings are great as they deepen communication with each employee and allow you and to review if they are performing well. 

Are they meeting your expectations as well as their own goals? If any issues occur, these can also be discussed in the quarterly meetings.

Communication Timeframes

We said it makes sense to let your employees design their own work schedule. What you want to have, however, are certain touchpoints that everyone has to meet.

For example, everyone has to attend a weekly meeting. Or, everyone is required to respond to text messages within 24 hours. 

Communicate what makes sense for you and your business to your remote employees, and make your expectations clear. 

It’s also a good idea to instruct them on which communication channel to use for what. In what cases do you expect them to use text messages? For what instances should they use email? Are they allowed to send you a private message?

There are no formal rules; just make sure to tell your employees upfront about how you want things to run.

Goals And Career Chances

It’s a common trap to treat remote workers like freelancers. If they are part of your team, treat them like employees. Give them chances to further their careers and pursue their personal goals.

Don’t make them feel like they are stuck with their position forever. Have one-on-one calls every year or half a year and discuss how they are doing. What are their goals for their next year and how can the team help.

Treat your employees with respect and make them happy. That way you have a loyal team.  Loyal employees are invaluable because fluctuations in your team cost you a lot of money.

You lose time and money when you have to hire new employees and train them. You still want to hire new people when needed;  new employees also bring in fresh ideas. But, avoid a culture that pushes people to leave frequently.

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Teambuilding

Creating a strong team is especially hard for businesses that run remotely. As we mentioned before, in a physical office space, people naturally bump into each other and communicate.

That’s why some workplaces like to offer their remote employees an open chat. In that chat, they can talk about anything they want, aside from work. It’s a great way to replace the usual small talk which would take place in an office.

If you plan to have a remote team long-term, consider yearly team meetings. Just two or three days together a year can be beneficial for the whole team.

Align Your Workflow With The Dragon 100 Habits Checklist

Now, there is a lot to keep in mind when it comes to managing remote employees. But what if we told you there is a way to make managing your team clearer and more transparent?

Through his advisory board Dragon 100, Dan Lok is coaching other business owners on how to scale up. Even if you aren’t a part of Dragon 100, you can access the Dragon 100 Habits Checklist.

The checklist allows you to have clarity from all employees. Align your team from senior executives to junior members. Get Access To Your Guide Today.